Each year, more than a million visitors enjoy the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the annual musical holiday stage show presented for an 8-week run at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.
The Christmas extravaganza, which debuted in 1933, is perhaps best-known for its performances of precision dance routines, including eye-high kicks, by the legendary Radio City Rockettes.
A new accessory was added last year to the Rockettes dazzling costumes - a set of shoes for each of the dancers was outfitted with Quantum5X Systems TapShoeMics, which are wireless microphone transmitters designed specifically to capture the sound of tap-dance numbers so that it can be amplified in the house sound reinforcement system.
The task of adding RF tap shoes to the live mix fell on Larry Sedwick, SVP Productions for Madison Square Garden Entertainment, which produces the show. Quantum5X (Q5X) was approached to develop a solution, based upon its years of experience in supplying rugged wireless mic systems to professional sports leagues in North America, including the NBA and NHL.
The TapShoeMic is a customized version of the company’s remote controllable transmitter used in the QT-5000 Playermic, modified for attachment to the tap shoe and integrating a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can last up to 8 hours depending on output power, which ranges from 30 mW to 100 mW. It offers selection of hundreds of frequencies presently available in the 600-698 MHz RF band.
For the Rockettes, a TapShoeMic transmitter securely contained in a custom housing is bolted to the arch of each shoe, where it’s both out of the way and virtually invisible. The housings include fitted openings for each transmitter’s Countryman EMW onmi lavalier microphone and battery charger port.
The TapShoeMic’s customized Q5X transmitter. (click to enlarge)
Last year’s inaugural effort with 150 transmitters went so well - multiple shows a day for a couple of months - that this year the shoes for a second tap number have been outfitted with Q5X transmitters doubling the total to 300, so that tap sound can be captured regardless of costume (and more specifically, shoe) changes.
RF consultant James Stoffo, founder of Professional Wireless Systems (PWS) and noted for wireless and frequency coordination work with countless high-profile events over the years, was brought in last year to assist in implementing the technology, working closely with audio designer Dan Gerhard, and he has remained involved through the program’s expansion this season.
The transmitter mounted to the shoe in a housing that has fitted openings for a Countryman EMW onmi lav mic and a battery charger port.(click to enlarge)
The transmitters are only a piece of what is a larger overall solution from Q5X called the Remote Control Audio System (RCAS), with software facilitating remote control of the settings and monitoring the status of all 300 transmitters from a central computer via a 2.4 GHz radio frequency control channel. It enables audio technicians using a PC in Radio City’s audio mixing room to remotely turn transmitters on/off and make on-the-fly adjustments to frequency and audio level during a performance.